BP has already blogged about the US request to use Utapao airport as part of climate research study. The plan has faced domestic opposition and the Cabinet has not yet approved the project which given the NASA deadline of June 26 effectively means the project will either be cancelled or delayed to next year. It has simply been mind-blowing to watch the conspiracies whipped up about the project given that the project has been in planning for years and a letter of intent was signed under the previous government. AP:

Critics of the project include nationalists and the opposition Democrat Party. There have been allegations, unsupported by evidence, that the project would be a cover for U.S. military and intelligence activities, and could harm Thailand’s relations with China. NASA and scientists supporting the project have pointed out in rebuttal that its details were openly available.

“We chose U-Tapao because it provided an optimum combination of location, facilities and access,” Hal Maring, a coordinator of the NASA project, told the English-language Bangkok Post, emphasizing that “NASA is a civilian agency and has no connection with the United States military.”

Reuters:

The Thai government on Tuesday delayed a decision to let U.S. space agency NASA use a military air base for climate study after the main opposition party claimed, among other things, that it was tantamount to a surrender of sovereignty.

The NASA project may have fallen foul of internal Thai politics: the opposition Democrats are also claiming the government had agreed to the deal in return for the United States’ granting a visa to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of current premier Yingluck.

BP: BP plans to look at some of the Democrat complaints of the project in a separate post, but the above is just a summary of some of the complaints. These though pale in comparison to one from the anti-Thaksin PAD about the program. PAD spokesperson Panthep appeared on ASTV Manager TV on June 20 to explain his problems about the US using Utapao. ASTV Manager has an article on the appearance entitled “ปานเทพ” เปิดแผนมะกันฆ่าคนด้วยภัยพิบัติหวั่นใช้อู่ตะเภาทำไทยเดือดร้อน” (Panthep reveals American plan to kill people by [natural] disasters; afraid that will use Utapao to cause problems).

BP: Can we already see the direction that this is going?

Fortunately, Prachatai has already done a summarized translation of the article. Some excerpts below:

The US has developed a project which can emit electromagnetic waves into the atmosphere to be reflected back to the earth to cause ‘natural disasters’ at targeted areas, as a new kind of weapon to destroy enemies…

He said that he had written an article about the US project called High Frequency Active Aurora Research Program, or H.A.A.R.P., a research project jointly conducted by the US armed forces and the University of Alaska to control and manipulate the climate by firing high-frequency electromagnetic waves with the power of over one Giga-watt [BP: Wrong see below] to the ionosphere to be reflected back to any specific location on earth and penetrate subterranean rock strata to cause earthquakes.

He showed a video clip of a documentary from the History Channel as evidence to support his claim, adding that this project was a new weapon which could cause climatic fluctuation, changes in the direction of winds and tides, or even create hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes.

Experiments in this project have taken place in Alaska, Russia and Norway, he said.

He said that he did not make this up by himself, but the whole world was worried about this ‘disaster-inducing weapon’.  When a particular country or region is struck by natural disasters, the US will pose as a saviour with the purpose of exploiting natural resources and dominating local governments.

He also showed video clips of natural disasters which had happened in some countries as examples of what he believed might have been related to the project:

– In 2008, the sky above Sichuan in China changed colour before an earthquake.  That was because when a high-frequency wave was emitted to the ionosphere, the resulting heat in the atmosphere changed the sky colour, he said.

– In 2010, in the wake of a severe earthquake in Haiti, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came out to announce that it was a result of an experiment to manipulate natural disasters, and the US was playing with God.

– Prior to Japan’s tsunami, the magnetic field was found to be very low, and ‘the emitted frequency’ was unusual.

BP: Indeed if Chavez says so it just must be true…… Just a conspiracy theory.

First, okay, on HAARP itself. Wikipedia introduction:

The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).[1]

Built by BAE Advanced Technologies (BAEAT), its purpose is to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance.[2] The HAARP program operates a major sub-arctic facility, named the HAARP Research Station, on an Air Force–owned site near Gakona, Alaska.

HAARP has been blamed by conspiracy theorists for a range of events, including numerous natural disasters. Various scientists have commented that HAARP is an attractive target for conspiracy theorists because according to computer scientist David Naiditch, “its purpose seems deeply mysterious to the scientifically uninformed“.[3]

BP: Indeed…

PopSci:

Scientists are interested in the ionosphere because of its ability to affect radio signals; the Van Allen belt, because the radiation there damages satellites, and a better understanding of it could lead to ways to make satellites last longer. “It’s an open plasma-physics laboratory,” says Dennis Papadopoulos, a physics professor at the University of Maryland who helped conceive the idea for HAARP with the Naval Research Lab more than 30 years ago. “You test ideas and scientific theories. Then, if something’s important to the Department of Defense, you apply it.”

Ask a HAARP scientist about allegations like this, and he’ll either laugh or lose his temper. “This is completely uninformed,” says Umran Inan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University whose research group works with HAARP. “There’s absolutely nothing we can do to disturb the Earth’s [weather] systems. Even though the power HAARP radiates is very large, it’s minuscule compared with the power of a lightning flash—and there are 50 to 100 lightning flashes every second. HAARP’s intensity is very small.”

BP: Although conspiracy theorists won’t let facts get in the way of their theories….

After a noted scientist in Pakistan wondered whether HAARP was responsible for the floods, nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy responded in an op-ed in The Dawn:

Does the good doctor believe in magic and demons? How else can massive tectonic plates be moved by radio waves? Will HAARP tickle a sleeping subterranean monster that awakes and sets off earthquakes? This kind of thinking was what irate and ignorant village mullahs used after the 2005 Pakistani earthquake. They blamed cable television, after which followers smashed thousands of television sets.

Weather change simply cannot be caused by HAARP’s radio waves. The effects of a puny 3.6MW radio transmitter on the ionosphere can only be detected with sensitive instruments. Even these are almost completely washed out by a constant stream of charged particles from the sun that hit the earth during daytime. To see HAARP’s effects would be like trying to see a candle a mile away in blazing sunlight.

Today, even the most powerful lasers and radios are millions of times weaker than needed to heat sizeable portions of the ionosphere. (Of course, producing hotspots in tiny volumes anywhere is not a problem, but these have zero effect on the weather or earthquakes.) Perhaps in some future century a laser might be able to do this job.

Once science loses its objectivity and becomes enslaved to any kind of ideology or political opinion, it becomes useless.

Quack science does not just cost money. It also confuses people, engages them in bizarre conspiracy theories, and decreases society’s collective ability to make sensible decisions.

BP: Well said…

Noted electrical engineer and Nobel Prize winner William E. Gordon in a letter to Science in 1997:

First, the anti-HAARP (High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) activists overestimated the power of the Gakona, Alaska, facility by a factor of more than a million and then used statements in patents (1) to fuel speculations on the part of the public about possible effects such as weather manipulations, mind warping, and communication disruptions. This incorrect information has been refuted in hearings in the Alaska legislature, in a video prepared by Senator Frank H. Murkowski (R-AK) for airing in Alaska, and at open-house sessions at the site for interested visitors.

Second, the Gakona site is now intended to be a world-class facility for studying the upper atmosphere, although the function has evolved from an over-the-horizon radar (never constructed), to a high-frequency facility (under construction) to generate ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) radio waves in the ionosphere, to a major center for upper atmosphere studies using a variety of diagnostics (some in place) with a powerful incoherent scatter radar (ISR) as the core instrument (to be constructed). The core instrument will join with existing ISRs at Svalbard and Tromsø in Norway; Sondrestrom, Greenland; and Boston, Massachusetts, and with the proposed ISR at Resolute Bay, Canada, to form an Arctic network of radars to observe virtually the whole Polar Cap and to track disturbances produced by solar inputs in the form of waves and particles. The network will be a remarkable additon to the tools available to the atmospheric science community with applications to space weather, Arctic and satellite communications, and electric power-grid problems.

In the early days of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico there were concerns expressed about the facility, but these have long since been replaced by satisfaction with the scientific outcomes and the benefits to the local economy. The residents of Alaska will find similar benefits.

BP: He was a little naïve that the controversy would go away…

Second, the History Channel program referred to seems to be a reference to a series, appropriately called “Conspiracy Theory” hosted by Jesse Ventura (yes, Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura). This is actually a TruTV program although has been broadcast by the History Channel in some countries. The show has looked at every conspiracy including manchurian candidate, 9/11, global warming conspiracy etc – Wikipedia has a brief summary  of the series here. The HAARP show was the first episode – available on YouTube here – so there are reviews of the show. Having watch part of the episode, BP’s view are summed up by this review by Slant Magazine. Key excerpt:

Ventura’s hokey methods are clear throughout the premiere episode, in which the former governor and his team travel to Alaska in order to investigate HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), a defense agency-funded research center that uses a massive amount of electricity to heat up the ionosphere and could be used to better communicate with deep sea submarines. Of course, the show takes this innocuous bit of information and twists it into HAARP being used as a weapon capable of controlling the weather and disintegrating human beings, as well as being a possible cause of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Apparently, the United States government is more like Cobra or SPECTRE than one would imagine.

Ventura’s proof that something fishy is going on up in Alaska is a single hapless HAARP employee (“dressed like a civilian,” as the narrator quickly notes), who denies him and his camera crew access to the compound. He quickly jumps to the conclusion that they would only shut out a former Navy Seal and governor if they had something to hide, completely bypassing the more obvious reason of not wanting to let in a cracked, opportunistic television host hoping to skewer the government on just about anything.

Newsday:

 MY SAY This show is a one-hour “Saturday Night Live” skit – if only “SNL” were this good. When one of The Body’s reporters fails to get a HAARP rep to admit that the facility causes earthquakes, mass psychosis or weather changes, he explains that ” the HAARP spokesman is in denial.”

During an editorial meeting, another producer tells Ventura he has compelling evidence that HAARP may have caused the Indonesian tsunamis. Everyone agrees HAARP probably didn’t do this on purpose, thankfully: “What are they going to do?” snorts Ventura. “Fess up? ‘Oops, we made a mistake.’ ”

Ventura helicopters deep into the Alaskan bush, where he tells viewers HAARP is hidden far from prying eyes. (Well, not quite – it’s actually right off a major interstate.) The guard won’t let Ventura in, so The Body concludes: “An operation run by the Navy doesn’t shut out a former Navy SEAL. They’ve got something to hide.”

LA Times:

If anything, the show stacks the deck in favor of the theorists, who get the most screen time and the best camera angles. Tonight’s episode concerns HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, an array of antennae in the Alaskan wilderness that shoots bursts of electricity into the ionosphere, which is said by some to have the capacity to change the weather, cause earthquakes and cloud the human mind. (The funding for the program comes largely from the Department of Defense.) The HAARP spokesman who counters the more sinister claims is said to be “in denial,” rather than “making a denial,” and HAARP itself is described as a “so-called research project” and “a weapon,” though it has never been used as such. (The reply to that, I suppose, would be “How do you know it hasn’t?”)

BP: Well, you get the picture…. Debunking a conspiracy theory is difficult, but this is what some of the opposition to NASA has become…